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Thread: What are some good outward signs of a well built house?

  1. #1
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    What are some good outward signs of a well built house?

    My son-in-laws niece and her fiancé are looking at houses. They’ve been asking me questions and I can help some. But I bet you good people could come up with better advice.

    Are there any tricks to spotting a well built house that you can see on a walk-through?

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    From the outside I would look at the roof for sagging between the trusses/rafters which to me indicates either the trusses might be pushing being too far apart, or the sheathing is too thin for the space between the trusses/rafters. That said, it still might meet code.

    If it has vinyl siding (some might argue that a well built house would not have vinyl siding) check that the siding lays flat and is not wavy.

    On the inside check to see how much the floor bounces when someone walks across it with a heavy foot.

    Maybe take a look at the plumbing fixtures and brands to get a sense of inexpensive builder/big box house brand, middle of the road functional , and fancy/top of the line paying for style

  3. #3
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    I always figured that I would not buy a house that I had not seen when it was being framed. As a carpenter I can spot sub-par framing driving by from my truck window. Way tougher to tell after things are finished. Take a level along and check walls for plumb ,see if doors close nice and do not swing by themselves. The other advice would be to find an older experienced realtor who knew the good builders in the era and area the house was built in. The furnace room will be an indication if the electrical and plumbing look good that would be an indication of a G.C. who cared about quality. Does the house look quality ? Windows and doors are another clue,a better builder will use better windows. if the kitchen and baths look cheap you can almost bet that money was saved where you can not see.

  4. #4
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    If it is not too old look at the roof. Is it the cheapest single layer shingles or something better. Did they use metal flashing in the valleys. I am sure there is a way to spot cheap gutters and downspouts from the street.
    Bil lD

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    I've heard a marble is an easy way to check floors or countertops for level. Probably less effective on carpeted floors..

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    I look for foundation cracks. They're almost inevitable in older houses, but if the house is newer they shouldn't be there. If you have an unfinished basement I look up and see what size/type of rafters they used and if the HVAC, plumbing & electrical are neat and not jumbled together or done amateurly.

  7. #7
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    Roof: Does it look straight? Any noticeable signs of stained drywall on any ceiling? Signs of a leak.

    Electrical. 200am service minimum. Are there any spare breakers for growth, or will the buyer have to install a subpanel. Test some breakers by turning them on and off. Are they spongey? If so, the breakers may need replacement. If the panel is Zinzco, then there is a panel change in the buyer's future. Bring along one of those pocket three prong outlet testers and test a few in the kitchen and bath. Count outlets per room. Now, they like them every 12 feet, because most cords are limited to six feet.

    Plumbing. Of course, run the shower and flush a toilet. Yes, the shower volume will go down, but it shouldn't force the shower taker to run out of the shower. Run hot water. How much time until it gets hot? What size tank if its a tank-type. Bonus for Tankless.

    Internet, TV etc. Where does the cable terminate and is there room for a modem, router and switch and perhaps a UPS (e.g., an electrical outlet nearby)

    AC. I wouldn't buy a house without AC, even in Minnesota. How many zones? The more the merrier.

    Laundry. Convenient and good dryer exhaust? Usually not more than a six foot dryer exhaust, unless there is a booster fan.

    That's all I can think of on the fly.
    Regards,

    Tom

  8. #8
    Lots of good advice above.


    In addition to the points on settling raised by other members, you can also look for drywall cracks or seams opening. A little is not unusual, but be wary if you see more than that. Cracked tile and/or grout is another warning sign.

    Look for signs of moisture in the basement, not just on the floor but also the walls - water stains on finished walls or efflorescence (white powder) on concrete or block. Also look for water leak stains on all the ceilings. It will often look like a brownish area, generaly deliniated by a darker brown line

    Outside make sure the water easily drains away from the house and gutters are well maintained. If water has been trapped near the walls too often, there may be serious damage that will be hard to see.

    If its part of a development put in at the same time, ask some of the neighbors about issues they've had with their houses.

    Some other things to consider will depend on the age of the house.
    In general, insulation, and more importantly air sealing, have on average been getting better over the past few decades. A copy of the past few utility bills can be quite useful

    Much older homes can have amazing details, but wiring can be a big concern, as well as lead paint.

    Utilities like the heating, AC, hot water, etc have varying lifespans, depending on the initial quality. You can generaly get a date off of the manufacture plate, but more importantly, look at the condition - rusted, dusty, evidemce of leaks?

    Most importantly, when they make an offer on a house, get a thorough set of inspections by a very reputable group of inspectors. The buyer's agent will recomend some, and they may be great, but remember that the agent makes money by getting sales to close quickly and their inspectors rely on referals from those agents

  9. #9
    A roof design that does not make you think you once saw it playing a mountain range in a movie.

  10. #10
    If it has dormers ...they should be a vertical ,narrow ,pleasing design. NOT a tool shed stuck on your roof.

  11. #11
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    That's kind of like asking what are the outward signs of a well prepared meal. You need to do a deeper dive. It depends on the era of construction too. Was it a one off custom build or a tract home? Look at window quality, the HVAC system, the appliance grade, and the plumbing. These four things can tell you a lot about what he builder had in mind.
    Sharp solves all manner of problems.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Luter View Post
    That's kind of like asking what are the outward signs of a well prepared meal. You need to do a deeper dive.
    Rob,
    you couldn’t be more right which is why I asked. Most of what I know and many of the replies here are about spotting flaws. And those are all very valuable. Im wondering about things that would give the buyer a sense of confidence that the unseen parts of the house are done well. As you point out, that’s hard.

    metal roof valleys is something to look for.
    our house was custom built for us. The builder used square D QO breakers which are a step up.
    does the house have individual shut offs under the sinks and such.
    look for tight joints in the trim work with little filler.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Luter View Post
    That's kind of like asking what are the outward signs of a well prepared meal.....
    Yes. I like to think I know it when I see it, but can't always say what it is. In an empty house, the kitchen cabinets are the most visible indicator. If the house is in a development and had to compete on price, you can assume it was not overbuilt.

    The number of exterior corners is a sign of the quality and price point the house was intended for. Corners are expensive. Just picture the difference between a simple rectangular house and one with an 8 x 8 entrance, a sun room, bay windows, etc. You still don't know how well it was built but you know it cost more to build it.

    I haven't looked in someone else's toilet tank lately, but AFAIK the date of manufacture is still molded into the inside of the tank. That will usually be close to the date the house was built if there's any doubt about that.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Luter View Post
    That's kind of like asking what are the outward signs of a well prepared meal. You need to do a deeper dive. It depends on the era of construction too. Was it a one off custom build or a tract home? Look at window quality, the HVAC system, the appliance grade, and the plumbing. These four things can tell you a lot about what he builder had in mind.
    This. Appearances can be, and often are, deceiving. You can be sure that most houses on the market have been prepared to present well, too. Only a deep inspection by a qualified resource (or two) will get you some reasonable assurance of how things are. But as Rob mentions, there are some general indicators that can be considered, especially on newer homes that may not have had a lot changed since they were built.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mel Fulks View Post
    A roof design that does not make you think you once saw it playing a mountain range in a movie.
    A curse on builders who make unnecessary design features that they think are trendy but have no practical value except adding to repair and replacement costs. Every roof penetration is an opportunity for a leak.

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